Here is a link to my Monday column about the 49ers’ win over the Panthers. The full text appears below:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The 49ers are coming. Tell that to Seattle.
Yell it from the Golden Gate Bridge, from the Transamerica Pyramid, from the new Bay Bridge. Here come the Niners.
Tell it to the National Football League and all the 50 states. The 49ers had the toughest playoff schedule you could imagine, brutal degree of difficulty. Green Bay. Charlotte. They won and then they won again, beat Carolina 23-10 Sunday in Charlotte. Strictly no contest.
So, tell Seattle the 49ers will be there next Sunday. Tell the Seahawks’ crowd. The Niners are on the move.
And they keep moving because of defense. That means there’s a 49ers paradox from the get-go. They keep moving because they keep stopping teams. They sure stopped the Panthers on Sunday, the Panthers who beat the Niners this season, beat them at Candlestick.
The 49ers moved past that, blew right on by. They keep moving.
Here is the story of the game. Call it “The Gospel According to Tough Guys.” For short, the “Tough Guy Gospel.”
You’ll love this. The Panthers-49ers game always was going to be a fight. Toughest team wins. Last man standing. The Panthers knew that and came out tough, rough and gruff. They needed to establish their street cred.
On the 49ers’ very first offensive series, San Francisco failed on third-and-6, incomplete pass. Had to punt the ball. Except Panthers’ safety Mike Mitchell hit Vernon Davis after the play. The pass wasn’t even intended for Davis. Innocent bystander. Mitchell hit Davis from the side. A sucker shot.
It’s clear what Mitchell was trying to do — establish dominance, put the fear of God into Davis, whom the Panthers knocked out of their first game. It was a coward’s play and the official saw it and called Mitchell for unnecessary roughness — 15 yards. The Niners got a first down and went on for a field goal.
The Lesson: It’s good to be tough, but it’s bad to be stupid.
The Panthers were stupid tough. Bad combo.
They weren’t done, either.
In the 49ers’ second series, Colin Kaepernick ran for 4 yards. Simple play. Get up and call the next play. It’s just that Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (I’m not making up that name) decided to head butt Anquan Boldin who was only peripherally involved in the action. Unnecessary roughness, 15 yards. The usual tough guy-stupidity combo. That led to another 49ers field goal.
After the game, Munnerlyn spoke about his penalty and, in the process, uttered one of the stupidest quotes in the history of stupid quotes: “I know earlier in the game, I had one (a penalty), but I always do it early in the game just to set the tone. That’s the type of guy I am just, try to go out there and set the tone.”
To summarize, the Panthers tried to act like tough guys, the tougher team — although some would call them a cheap-shot team. Then the 49ers stole their lunch money and sent them home crying. The 49ers said, without having to say it, “You tried to be tough guys. Now, watch us.”
The Panthers went on a long drive near the end of the first quarter. Nice drive. They got the ball to the 49ers’ 1. Could not drive it in on third down. Now it was the second quarter, first play of the quarter. Carolina decided to go for it. Tough guys. Fourth down Cam Newton, monster quarterback, ran straight ahead. An easy get. Touchdown. Except the 49ers stopped him dead.
Who’s tougher now?
Later in the second quarter, the Panthers went on another long drive. Again he brought the ball to the 1. Fullback Mike Tolbert couldn’t run it in from the 1 on third down. Forget about it. Lost a yard. On fourth-and-2 the Panthers blinked, cried uncle, gave in. Not so tough after all. Kicked a field goal. Could have had 14 points on those series, settled for 3. Had 10 points at that time. Never scored again. Shut out the second half.
Just how tough are you?
Listen to Niners’ defenders on the goal-line stands. Hear from nose tackle Glenn Dorsey — thoughtful, sincere, thorough. As he got ready twice for the Panthers’ push just outside the end zone, what was he feeling?
“I’m mad that we gotta get down there,” he said. “As a defense, you wanna hold them to nothing. You’re angry. You gotta make it right.”
So, it’s a feeling of moral failure. You’re angry at the other guys and you’re angry at yourself.
As Dorsey got into his stance at the goal line, he told himself. “You draw your line. You draw the line where the ball is at and knock ’em back. Knock ’em back and whatever’s gonna happen gonna happen.”
The 49ers drew the line and knocked them back. You don’t get to cross.
More Dorsey: “Those were some big downs. We had our back against the wall. But we perform better like that. You want it to come down to your defense. Hopefully, we won’t be in goal line as much, but when you are, you’ve got to do your job. We stood up.”
I’m going to give you more words from the defenders. It’s usually the offensive players who have the last say — Kaepernick, Boldin, Davis. In this game, the defenders earned the words.
Donte Whitner on those two stands: “They’re not in until they’re in. We understand they had a couple of good drives. But our front seven they really wanted to show they were the most dominant front seven in the National Football League and they did.”
Did the game turn then?
“I do think the game turned. Those were two big stops. And you expect a good running football team like that to get at least one of those in the end zone, but (our) guys came and penetrated.”
Ahmad Brooks, who played middle linebacker on the two stands — he usually is outside linebacker: “I play middle linebacker in the goal-line defense. That was something everybody got to see. I’m happy. I’ve been that all my life until playing in the NFL. Playing middle linebacker it felt good to be out there.”
Proud. Tough. Tougher than the Panthers.
Here is Jim Harbaugh on the goal-line stands: “Facts are stubborn things. You keep them out of the end zone on the goal line that is a statement.”
You should know this. The Panthers moved nicely into 49ers’ territory in the second half. The first time, the Niners sacked Newton twice in a row: NaVorro Bowman, Brooks. Punt.
Late in the fourth quarter, Newton threw a pick to Whitner.
In the press box, 49ers’ general manager Trent Baalke whispered, “Go down, Whit. Go down.”
Meaning the game was over. Don’t take a chance and fumble.
That pick was the killer blow, the death blow.
Best Niners win this season. By far. Here they come.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.